MVP Ladder

MVP Ladder: Numbers Never Lie!

VIDEO: There is no doubt Carmelo Anthony gets the job done, but he’s not on the MVP Ladder

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In any barber shop debate guys like Carmelo Anthony and DeMarcus Cousins would be involved in the MVP mix. Their numbers are that impressive.

But who says numbers never lie?

Because raw numbers alone won’t get you on the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder. It takes a little more in this generation, what with the analytics movement in full bloom and the efficiency numbers of players meaning just as much or more than their cumulative stats. And then there’s the win-loss column, where arguably the most important numbers in the MVP equation, can be found.

“Winning has to count for something,” said Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel, who will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars next month in New Orleans. “Paul George could chase more shots and score more points every night, but he’s sacrificing that urge for the greater good. All of our guys are making individual sacrifices for what we want to do as a team … Again, winning has to count for something.”

It’s a complicated mix that allows Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry to claim spots that would have gone to Anthony and Cousins a generation or two ago. There is no concrete formula. There is instead an intricate matrix that rewards the players capable of combining the best of all of these components, the way Kevin Durant, LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul George and Tony Parker, the top five guys on the MVP Ladder this week, day after day.

Dive in here for more on who made the cut on this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

MVP Ladder: A Little Love For Blake!

VIDEO: The Clippers’ Blake Griffin is one just four players in the league averaging 20 and 10 this season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A grand total of four players, just four, can boast of averaging 21 or more points and 10 or more rebounds a night this season in the NBA. The Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin is one of them, along with Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Three of the four are firmly entrenched on the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder this week, Griffin joins the party this week at No. 8, and some folks would argue that Cousins should be included in that mix as well (if he keeps up his current level of play he might gain entry in the coming weeks).

Griffin’s ascent this season, however, has come with the added pleasure of watching one of the league’s true highlight players add some substance to all of that style. This is a tougher, feistier and much more rugged version of the dunk machine we’ve all watched the past few years.

“It’s really cool to be on his team these two years and watch the growth he’s made,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford told the Los Angeles Daily News. Griffin will only continue to get better under the tutelage of Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose ability to get the best out of his players is well-known.

Griffin’s task is even more complicated right now with fellow captain, All-Star and MVP candidate Chris Paul sidelined for six weeks with a separated shoulder. But Griffin seems more than up to the task, having increased his production (16 assists in the three games Paul has been out) in certain areas while maintaining his steady flow everywhere else.

And the best part, he hasn’t had to sacrifice his penchant for making highlights — as Kris Humphries can attest — in the meantime.

Dive in here for more on Griffin and a shake up involving Kevin Durant and LeBron James at the top of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

MVP Ladder: LeBron On Top To Start 2014

VIDEO: The Beat crew breaks down the Year of the King, LeBron James

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Whether you like it or not, it’s his time. There is no disputing it, not after the ride LeBron James has been on the past two-plus years and counting. Everything has come together for the man universally recognized as the best in the game.

He’s got it all, Olympic gold medals, MVP trophies, NBA titles and Finals MVPs, too. So who are we to deny the King his rightful seat atop the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder as we kick off the calendar year 2014?

The worthy challengers have done their part. Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul George, Chris Paul and the rest will do whatever they can to displace LeBron, to knock him off the throne, if you will. But they’ll likely be met with the same reality everyone has had to deal with here recently.

LeBron, fresh off of his 29th birthday celebration, is head and shoulders above the competition in almost every way imaginable, and the longer the season goes on the more obvious it becomes.

Dive in here for more on LeBron and more of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

MVP Ladder: Lillard Comes Up Roses!

VIDEO: Damian Lillard drains the game-winner against Cleveland

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —  Four and counting.

Four game-winning shots this season and counting, that is, for Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, who is coming up all roses these days in the City of Roses. Lillard, the second-leading point guard scorer in the league behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry, has done a masterful job avoiding the sophomore slump after winning Rookie of the Year honors last season.

Lillard’s fingerprints are all over the Trail Blazer’s resurgence, too. That’s a huge part of what led to his rise to the ranks of the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder this week, where he checks in at No. 10. His appearance also gives us a second straight week when teammates move into the Top 10 together. Lillard joins LaMarcus Aldridge a week after Russell Westbrook joined the man at the top of the list, Kevin Durant.

LeBron James, Paul George, Aldridge and Chris Paul round out the top five this week.

Dive in here for more of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

MVP Ladder: Room For KD And Russ?

VIDEO: Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant show off why they make such a dynamic duo in Oklahoma City

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —  Trying to figure out ways to slow down Kevin Durant is enough to give a coaching staff the night sweats. Devising a scheme to corral his partner in hoops crime, Russell Westbrook, only makes things worse for the opposition and such a treat for the rest of us.

It’s not often you find two true MVP-caliber players coming of their own at the same time on the same team, and all right before our very eyes. But we get to see it every time the Oklahoma City Thunder’s dynamic duo hit the floor. That’s one of the many reasons they both have spots on the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder this week.

Durant’s MVP credentials have never been an issue. Westbrook, on the other hand, had some convincing to do … until that knee injury during the 2013 playoffs sidelined him and the Thunder’s championship hopes went up in smoke. That made it clear to anyone open-minded enough to reconsider their previous analysis of Westbrook’s game.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks didn’t need a refresher. He knows exactly what he has in his two young superstars and he says they both make the MVP grade.

“I think Russell impacts the game on both ends of the floor and in order to be a MVP candidate you have to do that,” Brooks said. “You have to be a two-way player to be a part of that conversation. I don’t think you can just be a scorer and expect to be considered the top player in the league. Russell does it with his activity on the basketball and his steals, Kevin does it with his ability to block shots and his rebounding. But they both defend and they are terrific players offensively.”

Durant maintains his No. 1 spot on the Ladder for a second straight week, followed by Paul George, LeBron JamesTony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge to round out the top five. Westbrook joins the list by grabbing the 1oth and final spot.

Dive in here for more of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

MVP Ladder: Aldridge On The Rise!

VIDEO: LaMarcus Aldridge goes off for the Trail Blazers in a win over the Thunder

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —  The season-highs in points (38) and rebounds (17) rebounds against the Oklahoma City Thunder should serve as a shining example for anyone wondering what LaMarcus Aldridge is capable of as a first-rate NBA star.

Yes, this is his eighth season in the league. And yes, the Portland Trail Blazers’ power forward has been an All-Star and a player whose potential often inspired lofty comparisons to past power forward greats to have played in the league.

But this season seems a bit different, for both Aldridge and the Blazers, who as of this moment sit atop the Western Conference standings (ahead of the Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and anyone else projected to be a contender for the spot heading into this season).

Aldridge has taken his new place in KIA Race to the MVP Ladder this week as well, his rise a direct reflection of his game and how integral he is to the Blazers’ bottom line.

Thunder forward Kevin Durant takes over the No. 1 spot this week from Clippers point guard Chris Paul. LeBron James, Paul George, Paul and Tony Parker round out the top five.

Dive in here for more of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

MVP Ladder: The Evolution Of LeBron

VIDEO: LeBron James is making the race for the KIA MVP trophy more interesting by the day

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —  His fingerprints are all over the trophies from the past two years, just the way LeBron James planned it all those years ago in Akron, Ohio when he was dreaming of being the global superstar he has become.

His connection to Northeast Ohio, damaged after “The Decision,” is stronger than ever (hence the “Come Home LeBron” campaign). For the folks who have watched LeBron’s evolution from the start, it makes perfect sense even if it doesn’t for the rest of us.

They are the same people who can’t make sense of his placement anywhere other than the very top of the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder, never mind that we’re just a month into the marathon.

Chris Paul still owns the No. 1 spot this week but there isn’t much separation between the Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard and the pack of Kevin Durant, James, Paul George, and Tony Parker in the top five.

Dive in here for more of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

MVP Ladder: Pelicans’ Davis Moving Up!

VIDEO: Anthony Davis talks about what it would mean to him to be an All-Star

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Anthony Davis at 20 years old better than Dwight Howard at 20? 

As long as Davis keeps on doing what he’s doing, this simmering debate will rage on. But a better comparison for the New Orleans Pelicans’ young big man might be Kevin Garnett, whose size, versatility, length, skill, intensity and high-ceiling at his current age are reminiscent of a young KG.

You could even step into the deep water and present the case that Davis is even better right now than Garnett, a future Hall of Famer, was at the same stage of his career. Davis is already in the mix on KIA Race to the MVP Ladder, which explains where sits currently on the big man food chain in the NBA (at or near the top of most people’s lists).

Chris Paul retained the No. 1 spot this week but is being pushed by Paul George, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Tony Parker in the top five. Kevin Love, James Harden, Davis, Stephen Curry and newcomer LaMarcus Aldridge round out the top 10.

Dive in here for more of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

Kia Race To The MVP Ladder: The Clippers’ Chris Paul Takes Over The No. 1 Spot

VIDEO: Chris Paul dominates in Clippers’ victory over Wolves

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Well, that didn’t take long.

After just one week atop the heap on the KIA Race To The MVP Ladder, the two-time reigning MVP has been displaced. Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul takes over at No. 1 this week, replacing the Miami Heat’s LeBron James., whose tumble down the Ladder has more to do with the work of the new faces near the top than it does with anything James has or has not done.

Kevin Love, Paul George, James and Kevin Durant complete the top five of a star-studded list, while Tony Parker, James Harden, Stephen Curry and newcomers Anthony Davis and Eric Bledsoe round out the second half of the Ladder.

Paul is off to a historic start, joining point guard luminaries Magic Johnson and John Stockton as the only players to score 10 or more points and dish out 10 or more assists in the first nine games of a season. And despite being dismissed already as a championship contender by TNT’s Charles Barkley, Paul and the Clippers are right where they need to be at this stage of the season.

Dive in here for more of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

LeBron Is Our Pick In Close Race

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It was a closer race than you know.

The decision to go with Heat forward LeBron James as our pick for the top spot in the final KIA Race to the MVP Ladder was not an easy one. Thunder forward and three-time scoring champ (and counting) Kevin Durant was a close second, followed by Lakers guard Kobe Bryant,  Clippers point guard Chris Paul and Spurs point guard Tony Parker.

All five of the top five finishers had strong cases for the top spot. But James, the most dominant player in the game on both ends of the floor, rose above the crowd on the strength of his versatility and his ability to affect the game in so many different ways.

Unlike our weekly updates, which were fluid and based as much on who was hot that week as well as their overall body of work, this final ranking is a reflection of an entire season worth of work. That’s why you see the likes of Dwight Howard, whose season is done, back in the mix.

We’re confident the media voters charged with picking the Maurice Podoloff Trophy winner (NBA MVP) this season will agree with our (10-deep) ballot, at least on the top three. But we’re not going to let this opportunity slip away without getting your take …